A snapshot of Riga, Part 3(Final)

Here it is, the last of my posts about Riga(for now). Here’s an overview of the different places I mentioned(plus the ones I will mention today) Todays post includes a bookshop, a free tour, and something that boggles my mind.

Roberts books
To all the book lovers, especially those who like reading in English, Roberts books is the place to go. A short fifteen minute walk away from the old town on Dzirnavu Street 51, in a small alley, this second hand bookshop is quite easy to miss. The outside of the shop is nicely decorated, and once you’re inside two rooms filled with English books are there to greet you. Surprisingly, it is about as big and as well stocked as any second hand bookshop in a native English country. The soft music, nice interior and yellow lightening make it easy to immediately feel content and just curl up on one of the comfy chairs with your newest discovery.

Yellow suitcase free tour
If you’ve been to Tallinn you might have heard of the yellow suitcase tours before. The ones in Riga claim that they were first, but who knows! Either way, this free tour is run by young locals and gives you a completely different take on the city. Instead of just showing you what every tourist knows they share interesting stories about parts of the city that might otherwise be easily overlooked. The tour starts every day at 12 in front of the St. Peterschurch and lasts for about two and a half hours.

Something that you’d walk past easily (and that I’m still breaking my mind over)
In the park surrounding the city canal, opposite of the National Opera, there is a flower bed(when I was there it was without flowers). Now this might not strike you as odd, and I would’ve walked past as well, it if it hadn’t been pointed out to me during the Yellow Suitcase tour. The flower bed is ringed by flat stones, in a perfect circle and in the middle of the dirt in this flower bed, is a flat round stone. “Stand in the middle and just say something” is what we got told. Surely enough, when others did it nothing really happened, aside from the surprise you would see registered on their face after speaking their first word. Soon I found out myself, the flower bed plays a weird acoustic trick, making it sound like you aren’t standing outside in the open air, but in a small glass dome placed on top of the flower bed. It only seemed to work if you were standing on the flat stone in the middle, but outside the flowerbed your voice would be heard normal without any acoustic effect (Standing with two worked as well, only when we were with 4 and not talking towards the outside of the circle, would the acoustics be less – The geek in me obviously immediately thought about other dimensions, force fields and all that Doctor Who induced stuff.)
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Ofcourse I have my own logical thoughts about how this could work(My mind doesn’t just go “Aliens”), but I’m very interested to hear your opinion about how you think this works!! If you know excactly how it works, even better!

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A snap shot of Riga, part 2

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Riga has enough to offer to keep you busy for at least a week. There are the main attractions such as the old market halls, the churches and other common tourist spots. But these are things you’ll be able to find yourself quite easily when you go there. So instead I’ll talk about the places you might not think of! Today I’ll focus on one restaurant and one café that are definitely worth visiting.

Folkklubs Ala
If you walk a few streets towards the river from the St. Peter church you might end up in Peldu Iela, a street with quite a few bars and restaurants. And most importantly: Folkklubs Ala, a traditional Latvian tavern. Don’t let the dodgy entrance fool you, after descending down the stairs, walking through a hallway that seems to be used for storage, you will suddenly find yourself in medieval Riga. This underground bar looks, feels and sounds like the old times (but it thankfully doesn’t smell like it!) Dark and scarcely lit, there are a two halls were you can sit down. There’s an area with comfortable couches and low tables, or bars where you can sample one of the local beers. You can also choose to sit down at one of the wooden tables for a real Latvian meal. But what would a folk club be without folk music? Not a folk club obviously. The place has live traditional folk music for about 4 out of the 7 nights, often accompanied by dancing as well. However, for the dancing you might want to shape up before joining, the locals dancing there seem to know their steps pretty well and easily synchronise together to the songs (a sight to see, but intimidating if you were thinking about joining!)

Tims mints
Located on a small square behind the St. Peterschurch is Tims mints; A hidden pearl, recommended to us by blue cow. A small pre-party café owned by three siblings. The place has a nice, cosy atmosphere and you just can’t help but feel at home. We only went there for cocktails, but they have meals during the day as well. As for the cocktails, they don’t have a fixed menu so just tell them what kind of flavours you would like and you will be pleasantly surprised! I myself managed to get an apple cinnamon cocktail served in one of their many iconic jam-jars.

That’s it for today, comments are appreciated!

Next up: in my opinion the best bookshop of Riga, a mysterious case and free tours!

A snap shot of Riga

Riga from Academy of Sciences(also known as Stalin's birthday cake)

Riga from Academy of Sciences(also known as Stalin’s birthday cake)

One of the nice things about being an exchange student is that you suddenly get to make all these random trips to explore your new home country, or other neighbouring countries that you might have otherwise never given a second thought. A week ago, after a short ferry trip from Helsinki to Tallinn and a 4 hour bus ride, I arrived in Riga together with 4 others to spend 2 days there. Riga. Before coming to Riga I had absolutely no idea what to expect of Latvia’s capital city. Back in the Netherlands (my home country) you never really hear a lot about Latvia, or any of the Baltic countries for that matter. I hadn’t looked into it before we left either; it was a blank page waiting to be filled. That page is now a whole artwork; the city surprised me in so many ways. “A once in a lifetime visit” I had thought, but that’s not true any more, I’d love to go back sometime, see more of the city and, more importantly, of the country itself! A capital city can never represent the whole country; it’s only a snapshot of one small part.

Riga in general
Riga has quite an old city centre. The old buildings are surrounded by loads of green spaces, giving the centre an authentic and even medieval feel to it. Add to that the bustling street life, with performances all over the place, and you have yourself a city that will definitely not bore you.


Where to stay
There are enough hostels in Riga to ensure you will have a place to rest your head, but what’s the difference between an okay hostel and an amazing hostel? The Blue Cow hostel seems to have found the answer to that question. On the top floor, of one of the longest buildings in Riga, you will find this charming little hostel. Upon entering the common room, which really looks more like you just stepped into someone’s living room (complete with comfy couches, a big TV and a kitchen that has anything you could ever need), you are politely asked to take of your shoes. The host takes great care to ensure you know how the keys work, where you can find the nearest grocery stores and to give you all kinds of great inside tips on where to go. I don’t think I’ve ever had a welcome as warm as this one (and I’ve stayed in quite a few amazing hostels!)

Don’t forget to pick up one of the Riga ‘Like a local’ city maps before you leave to explore! Also available for Tallinn, these maps have proven to be the most useful and easy-to-understand guides for the city. You can also check out the Like a local website.

Have you ever been to Latvia or Riga? What were your experiences? There will be more on my highlights of Riga soon! =)